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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at UNSC Briefing on Syria - Chemical Weapons

 I want like to thank Under-Secretary General Nakamitsu for her briefing today. It is good to see her with us.


Madam President, once again, Ireland unequivocally condemns any use of chemical weapons at any time and anywhere. As the instances of their use in Syria and elsewhere make clear, they have a devastating and indiscriminate impact on their victims and on the communities. We must act together to uphold the established global norm against the use of these appalling weapons.


Today, Madam President, I would like to make three points.


First, Ireland is unwavering in its view that the role of the OPCW is crucial in addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons. For us, it represents an essential and effective part of the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. It serves to protect all of our interests and, I’d like to underline, including those of the people of Syria, in ensuring the global elimination of chemical weapons. 


We are seriously concerned, therefore, by ongoing efforts by some members to question the professionalism and impartiality of the OPCW technical secretariat, and its investigation mechanisms. In our view, this risks lasting damage to this vital organisation, and undermines the multilateral approach to disarmament and non-proliferation, which is enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention.


In the case of Syria, the OPCW, through the JIM and IIT, has provided factual, evidence-based and impartial conclusions on numerous reported instances of chemical weapons use in Syria. It has been clear where evidence was insufficient to come to a conclusion. It has also been clear where evidence points to use by terrorist groups.


OPCW has on several occasions to date, found that the evidence warrants attribution of use to the Syrian authorities. Given the OPCW’s technical expertise and experience, as well as its mandate, we don’t believe that we here should seek to second-guess these findings. Rather, the international community, and this Council in particular, should act urgently, in unity, to address the issue of this documented use of chemical weapons in Syria.


My second point is that we remain deeply concerned by the gaps and inconsistencies in Syria’s initial declaration. These are particularly important given the documented, repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities since 2013. These gaps and inconsistencies by Syria have increased in number and substance over the past seven years.


Overall, this paints an unfortunate picture of evasion by Syria, with an ongoing effort to avoid its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, OPCW Executive Council Decisions and Resolution 2118.


We note the recent consultations between the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) and Syria, which took place between the  7 to 25 February, and we really hope to hear of progress made in addressing the 19 outstanding issues under Syria’s declaration.


Again, we have to be really clear: the Syrian authorities bear the responsibility to fully address and answer these issues. And I would today again urge the Syrian authorities to cooperate actively, openly and in good faith with the OPCW.


My last point really is in responding to the findings of the FFM and IIT on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian air force in Latmenah in March 2017, the OPCW Executive Council set out clear actions for Syria to take to return to compliance with the CWC. Ireland deeply regrets that Syria chose not to act on these. We would again today urge Syria to act immediately to comply with this Decision.


Given these circumstances, Madam President, Ireland has supported the decision put to the Conference of States Parties (CSP) to the CWC for its meeting in April.  In the absence of any action on the part of the Syrian authorities to meet the international community’s concerns, we believe that the Conference of States Parties must take all appropriate actions to address Syria’s non-compliance.


Thank you

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